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Chief Kerr announces return to Fort Lauderdale

Thursday, February 8, 2018 by Jo Clifton

Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr, who has served as the leader of Austin’s Fire Department since 2009, is returning to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she began her career as a firefighter 18 35 years ago. Interim City Manager Elaine Hart announced Wednesday that Kerr had accepted the position of fire chief at the Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Department, where she started in 1983 before becoming fire chief in Little Rock, Arkansas, and then in Austin. Her retirement is effective July 1, which will give Austin’s new City Manager Spencer Cronk time to get his feet on the ground before choosing a new chief. When Kerr came to Austin, she was the first female chief and exemplified the city’s push to hire more female firefighters. She will also be the first female chief for Fort Lauderdale. Although the local firefighters union has voted to censure her twice, it has not stopped her from rising through the ranks in the International Association of Fire Chiefs. She served as president of that organization as well as president of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association during 2015-16. In Austin, Kerr established four-person staffing on all fire apparatus and started the first Wildfire Division. Kerr also helped to create the Austin Fire Foundation and expanded the department’s outreach to distribute free smoke alarms every year. Although the Austin department is considerably larger than Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue, the Florida city was recognized as having the busiest fire station in the nation in 2014.

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